FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Fort Wayne’s NBC) — Storms can lead to combined sewer overflows in Fort Wayne.
For years, city leaders have been working on a plan to eliminate that potential contamination of our three rivers.
This is where it all starts, a five-mile tunnel boring 200 feet below the surface.
The shaft is now ready for the tunnel boring machine to be assembled and begin its five foot an hour process to grind its way through the bedrock under the city.
It’s tradition to name a tunnel boring machine for each project, and after a contest, Fort Wayne’s will be MamaJo.
Taking the MA from the Maumee, another MA from the Saint Marys, and the JO from the Saint Joe River, MamaJo, the tunnel boring machine, is the designated protector of the three rivers by helping construct the tunnel.
"It’s to take combined sewage, a dilute sewage, that normally goes into the rivers during a rain event. Instead, it will come here and be pumped to the waste water treatment plant," says the tunnel’s project manager, TJ Short.
It’s designed to remove 90% of the combined sewer overflows into the rivers — that’s about 850 billion gallons a year.
While you shouldn’t feel any tremors if you live or work above the tunnel route, you might see some construction in your neighborhood for additional drop shafts to help with water runoff.
But this $188 million project dovetails nicely with other plans in the works for the Summit City.
"Any time you can take the sewage out of the rivers, it’s going to be a great thing. Especially when you think about riverfront development going on. It can only enhance that," Short says.
And the project will provide benefits far beyond Fort Wayne.
"This is about reducing those overflows and improving water quality for our community, and then really everybody downstream, the entire Great Lakes watershed," says Matthew Wirtz from City Utilities.
The tunnel boring machine will be working solidly for the next three years with the full project expected to be operational by the year 2023.